PESHAWAR, Apr 04 (APP):Known as home to Gandhara Civilization, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is going to serve as a base-camp for archeologists, tourists and followers of Buddhism after completion of the ongoing gigantic developmental projects including renovation and expansion of the world’s lone Gandhara art Peshawar Museum to be reopened for public after Eidul Fitr.
In order to promote archeo-religious tourism in Pakistan, especially in archaeological-rich KP, the government has accelerated conservation and expansion work on different archaeological sites and buildings including Peshawar Museum where around 30,000 antiquities would be put on display for tourists and lovers of Gandhara Art. The provincial government has launched a project worth Rs100 million for purchase of historical buildings besides excavation, conservation and protection of archeological sites with allocation of Rs90 million in the province.
According to Dr Abdul Samad, Director Archeology and Museums KP, Rs 23.57 million was approved for purchase of houses of Bollywood superstars Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor at Peshawar. He said a survey for exploration of new historical archaeological sites was underway in the province including merged areas where 91 more sites discovered including Bazeera, Amlook Dara and Abba Saib Cheena in Swat.
A 2,000 years old Buddhists fresco paintings found first century AD coins and three fresco paintings at Abba Saib Cheena Swat unearthed believed to be used for religious and education purposes, he said.
Swat Museum, ancients’ monuments of Takht Bhai, Sehri Behlol, Sawal Dher, Jamal Ghari in Mardan and Havalian Buddhists Monastery in Haripur’s control had been taken over by the KP Government after the 18th Constitutional Amendment where facilities for tourists are being improved.
The UNESCO world heritage sites i.e Takht Bhai and nearby Sehri Behlol in Mardan were declared as protected monuments under Ancient Preservation Act (1904) and Antiquity Act (1975) of Government of Pakistan where the entire mountain area of 445 hectares near it was declared as Archaeological Reserve by KP Government.
Taj Muhammad, Assistant Director and Spokesman of Directorate of Archeology and Museums told APP that Mardan and Chakdara Lower Dir museums were being strengthened including construction of showcases for antiquities, modern lighting system and facilitation centres under KITE.
He said that a state-of-art museum was constructed near historical site at Hund Swabi from where Alexander the Great had crossed Indus River in 327 BC. Hund is also famous for Mehmood Ghaznavi’s invasion in 998, which marked beginning of Islamic era in the region.
Construction of two new museums in DI Khan and Abbottabad were almost completed where ancient antiquities depicting the area’s culture would be put on display besides two more museums in Kohat and Haripur were in pipeline, he added.
Following completion of these four new museums, the number of museums would increase to 16 in KP where 10 new museums were already established including three in Peshawar, one each at Charsadda, Mardan, Lower Dir, Swat, Bannu and two in Chitral. Muhammad Jahangir, In-charge Mardan museum said two new halls were constructed besides three new galleries for Islamic, archeology and Gandhara art antiquities in his museum where security system, electrical and showcases was improved.
Dr Abdul Samad, Director Archeology and Museums KP said conservation work for restoration of iconic white-architecture of Mohabat Khan mosque built by Mughal Governor, Mohabat Khan in 1630 on 30,155 square feet, was almost completed besides preservation of Islamia College Peshawar’s mosque founded on March 2, 1912 by Fazal Wahid alias Haji Sahib Turangzai and contract for conservation of historic mosques at Kalam, Pishmal and Odigram awarded.
In merged areas (erstwhile Fata), a survey for exploration of new archaeological sites was started where a 2,000 years old Shapula Stupa was discovered in Khyber district. Besides Italian government’s assisted ‘Heritage Field School’ proposed project worth around Rs1 billion and construction of western gate of historical Gor Khatri Peshawar, the government has approved Rs30 billion under Accelerated Implementation Program for exploration, excavation and conservation of archeological sites in merged areas.
In Peshawar, Cultural Heritage Trail Project was completed by previous PTI government under which about 500 metres long trail from ancient Ghanta Ghar to Gor Gathri was renovated including 85 centuries-old buildings and houses. Sethi House, an architectural wonder at Peshawar City built in 1880, was preserved and opened for tourists by KP Govt.
Dr Samad said Patricia McPhilips, UNESCO representative for Pakistan had recently visited ancient Gor Khatri, Heritage Trail, Sethi House and has agreed to start joint ventures in field of conservation.
Buddhist stupa ‘Bhamala’ in Haripur was preserved after discovery and lighted heritage branding installed besides Penaflex and signboards boards on BRT Route in Peshawar for public’s awareness.
Besides Penaflex and signboards of 91 archaeological sites in Swat, 62 Information signboards at Takht Bhai, Jamal Ghari and Shahbaz Ghari, 50 at different archeological sites and two at Swat motorway were installed and consultants for showcase layouts of Peshawar and Kalash Museums was hired.
Archeological sites are being connected with motorways and highways as Expression of Interests (EOIs) of four new roads projects published for feasibility and engineering designs include 14 kilometers Kumrat-Madakhasht for proposed cable car, 23km Mankyal-Badasara, 45km Shishi Koh-Madakhasht and 24km Spat-Thandyani.